Daytona 500 2012 Results: 5 Good, 5 Bad

Ben Montedonico@@NASCARBRBenContributor IIIFebruary 29, 2012

Daytona 500 2012 Results: 5 Good, 5 Bad

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    We saw fire, and we saw rain.

    And in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, we saw history made in the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

    Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag in the 2012 Daytona 500, and while he gets to take the big media tour that accompanies such a prestigious triumph, plenty more teams and drivers left Daytona winners in their own right.

    But for every good that happened at Daytona, there was plenty of bad. We've got you covered with the five best of each right here.

Good: Roush-Fenway Racing

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    There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: Roush-Fenway Racing dominated Speedweeks.

    The team started off with a bang by capturing the front row in qualifying, with 2011 Chase runner-up Carl Edwards taking the pole and teammate Greg Biffle taking second.

    But it was RFR's "other" driver, Matt Kenseth, who dominated the second half of the Speedweeks headlines, capturing his first Gatorade Duel win on Thursday and following that up with a stellar performance Monday night en route to his second Daytona 500 win in four years.

    Oh, by the way, Biffle finished third and Edwards wound up eighth.

Bad: Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

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    Just two years removed from Jamie McMurray's upset victory in the 2010 Daytona 500, EGR suffered its worst week as a race team in recent memory.

    It started on Thursday when Juan Pablo Montoya suffered a vicious crash in his Gatorade Duel race, and it just got worse from there.

    Montoya would suffer a mechanical problem with 40 laps to go in the Daytona 500, causing him to lose control and slam into a track jet dryer under caution. Montoya's car, the truck attached to the jet dryer and the track surface were all set ablaze.

    To make matters worse, McMurray would suffer a similar mechanical problem in front of half the field just 12 laps from the finish, resulting in a multi-car pileup that left several contenders, including Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola, destroyed.

    Looks like someone's got some explaining to do.

Good: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    What might have been.

    If Dale Earnhardt Jr. goes with Denny Hamlin on that final lap instead of Greg Biffle, the media circus may be surrounding a different driver this week.

    As it is, Junior leaves Daytona with a runner-up finish, his second at the 500 in three years.

    What may bode even better for Junior Nation was Earnhardt's attitude after he got out of his car Monday night. He was visibly frustrated by the fact that circumstances (see: Biffle, Greg) prevented him from having a shot at the win, which demonstrated that his drive and determination may still be there.

    Whether it is or not, you can't argue with results, and a runner-up finish isn't a bad one to start the season.

Bad: Jimmie Johnson

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    How do you want to start off your first season in five years without the title "defending champ"?

    Certainly not the way Jimmie Johnson started it.

    Johnson completed just one lap of the Daytona 500 before Elliott Sadler sent him on a wild ride. Johnson would hit the wall head-on and then be T-boned by David Ragan in the driver's door.

    Johnson was OK, but his car was not.

    And if he continues to have luck like this throughout the season, his chances at getting that title back may not be OK, either.

Good: Martin Truex Jr.

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    Martin Truex Jr. finished 12th in the Daytona 500.

    Not stellar; not terrible. Hey, at least he finished.

    But the 12th-place effort isn't the reason Truex is smiling so much after the Daytona 500.

    Lost in the 30 hours of rain delay, track explosion and Matt Kenseth's win was the fact that Truex was the leader at Lap 100.

    Why is that significant?

    For the first time in NASCAR history, the sport offered up a payday of $200,000 to the driver who led at halfway. Lap 100 happened to be halfway, and Truex happened to be the leader.

    So Truex happened to take home $200,000 and was likely pretty happy about it.

Bad: Jeff Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon's trip to Daytona was bad, so perhaps it's a good thing it ended early.

    Gordon's Speedweeks started off rough with a flip in the Bud Shootout. Gordon actually was having a good run in the 500 before his engine let go after just 81 laps.

    Placing 40th is certainly not where he wanted to end up, but he's in good company. Gordon's aforementioned teammate, Jimmie Johnson, sits just two points behind him in the standings.

    Perhaps they can draft their way up through the standings together.

Good: Richard Childress Racing

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    For arguments sake, let's just cast aside all of the pre-Daytona 500 accidents the RCR cars had.

    What a race it was for these guys.

    Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick flew under the radar all night long and stayed out of trouble.

    The results: a fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finish, respectively.

    When you consider that 90 out of the 122 vehicles that took to the track Friday, Saturday and Monday suffered crash damage, you can't argue with results like that.

Bad: AJ Allmendinger

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    It could only happen to AJ.

    Fifteen laps into the Daytona 500, Allmendinger brings his shiny new No. 22 car in for a pit stop. His crew chief is counting him down.

    "Five, four, three, two..."

    At that time, Ryan Newman pulls out of his pit stall. A tire falls off his car, and he stops.

    Right in front of AJ Allmendinger.

    Allmendinger slams into Newman's parked car, knocking out the radiator and sending him to the garage for 25 laps of an excruciatingly long repair.

    He comes back out onto the track and manages to finish the race in 34th. But it's clear now that, even at Penske Racing, Allmendinger cannot break away from the terrible racing luck that haunts him.

    Perhaps he can find sanctuary in Phoenix.

Good: Dave Blaney

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    In a sport driven by exposure, Dave Blaney came out the big winner at Daytona.

    When the race was red-flagged for over two hours following Montoya's jet dryer fiasco, Blaney found himself in the lead.

    For the majority of the red flag, Blaney's Ollie's Bargain Outlet car found itself on TV.

    That kind of exposure can lead to some serious sponsorship dollars—something his Tommy Baldwin Racing team can certainly use to help make sure Blaney finds himself out front more often.

    In case you were wondering, Blaney finished 15th—ahead of defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and Bud Shootout winner Kyle Busch.

Bad: Non-Cup Regulars

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    They just couldn't stay out of trouble.

    Four non-Sprint Cup Series regulars started the Daytona 500. Amazingly, they all finished. But none of them had the night they were looking for.

    Elliott Sadler triggered a multi-car pileup on Lap 2 after he made contact with Jimmie Johnson, sending him head-on into the wall. Chaos ensued, which took out Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne, Sadler's Nationwide Series counterparts.

    The fourth non-Cup regular, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., helped trigger a wreck of his own with four laps to go, when he moved up on Joey Logano and made contact with defending Sprint Cup Series champ Tony Stewart.

    Stenhouse, Sadler, Bayne and Patrick finished 20th, 27th, 35th and 38th, respectively.